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Post-Punk Bristol: The Pop Group

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Bristol

Bristol’s music scene has always played a huge part in developing the diverse & strong cultural identity that flows effortless throughout the city. From rock & folk to electro-noise, Bristol holds a collection of musical pioneers, crafting exceptional & unique music. Tom, from There’s Treasure Everywhere, draws our attention to one key element in the ever-growing scene: The Pop Group.

The Pop Group emerged kicking, screaming and dancing from the messy remains of the Bristol Punk scene in 1978. On October 23rd the recently refurbished Anson Rooms will host their first hometown gig in almost 35 years. Don’t expect anything easy on the ear – it’s gonna be a back slapping, nostalgia fest. The Pop Group challenged provoked and tested the listener in their brief heyday, so get ready for more of the same from the 2014 version of the band!

The Pop Group were at the forefront of the post-punk scene for a few short years, before dissolving at the start of the 1980’s. They were a band whose records lept at you with a visceral force. Funk / Punk / Dub /Afro beat / Avant-garde Jazz; all were fair game. This incongruous mixture was topped off by the strident declamatory vocals of Mark Stewart, who was never averse to the occasional blood-curdling scream – a shout that could be challenging whilst listening on headphones!

Although they only released 2 studio albums and 3 singles, their influence has been enormous. Powerfully political and fiercely critical of the establishment, they were the unintentional poster boys for every left leaning youth who fancied a dance as they dismantled the capitalist system.

Nick Cave apparently said that “Y”, the debut album from The Pop Group, was “the best music of the 20th century”. High praise indeed from the prince of darkness. It remains an extraordinary record, never letting you settle, constantly changing course thanks in part to the dub flavoured production of Dennis Bovell.

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The wide range of their sound sadly made the prospect of any commercial success hugely unlikely. When the band split, their members could be found in the likes of Rip Rig + Panic, The Slits and the chart friendly Pigbag as well as the wonderful on-U Sound record label, whose dub heavy sound suited Mark Stewart perfectly.

Reports on recent gigs from these revived rockers have been very enthusiastic and we look forward to an evening of furious funk and belligerent beats. Support on the night comes from Bristol reggae favourites Talisman plus the Papa roots Soundsystem. Let’s hope that builders did a good job on the Anson Rooms refurbishment as there could be some pretty powerful bass testing the structure of the building.

As you would expect from a band that called their second album “For how much longer do we tolerate mass murder?” they still have a keen political edge. The tour that brings them home to Bristol has been organised in support of the “Campaign Against Arms Trade”.

Aside from the gig, there are some long overdue reissues being readied for release. There’s even talk of new material on the horizon, which is something that many hope for but few expect. Maybe the world will finally be ready for The Pop Group? This Bristol gig provides a long overdue chance to see the band back in their hometown, let’s hope it can also help to kick-start a bright new future for them as well.

Want to catch The Pop Group in Bristol tomorrow night? Jump over here before it’s too late!


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Tom launched his blog There’s Treasure Everywhere late last year with the aim of displaying the very best of Bristol and the people behind what makes the city tick. And it certainly hits the spot. It gets right to the heart of the hidden Bristol scene: whether you’re interested in Bristol eateries, current art exhibitions, magazines or live music, There’s Treasure Everywhere unearths a very interesting side to Bristol that not everyone has insight to. It’s a fantastic hive of secret activity.

therestreasureeverywhere.net • @Theres_Treasure • faceboook.com/Therestreasureeverywhere

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